MISSOULA — U.S. Forest Service officials say a 2010 Montana survey shows fewer red-needled trees indicative of a mountain pine beetle attack than what was observed in 2009.

The survey of 23 million acres shows about 2.1 million acres with red trees. In 2009, there were 3.6 million acres.

But that may not mean a steep taper in attacks.

Forest Service pathologist Gregg DeNitto says the 2010 survey didn't map all the areas covered in 2009. In some cases, last year's cool, damp weather delayed the effects on the trees' appearance, leaving needles green instead.

But, DeNitto says, the beetles are running out of trees to attack in many areas.

The outbreak appears to have faded around Helena and Butte but is growing around Lewistown and the Flathead Valley.

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